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july 31
Live Downtown Contest You've been hearing about all that downtown warehouse space being converted to "lofts," living spaces too hip for the homely appellation "apartments.
" The Annual Downtown Home Tour invites you to peek at these spaces and even sign up for a chance to reside in one (the Rice, formerly the Rice Hotel) rent-free for a year. The tour features ten homes and two residential buildings under construction. Buy tickets and start your tour at any of the following addresses: 2016 Main, Hogg Palace at 401 Louisiana, Four Seasons Place at 1111 Caroline, Houston House at 1617 Fannin, Dakota Lofts at 711 William, Hermann Lofts at 204 Travis, 220 Main. 5:30-9:30 p.m. For info or tickets, call the Downtown Houston Association, 658-8938. $25, advance tickets; $30 at the door.

August 1
Alan Bennett: The Poet of Embarrassment British filmmaker/screenwriter Alan Bennett got his start with the 1960s British revue Beyond the Fringe, which also launched the career of another familiar Brit, Dudley Moore. Since the '60s, Bennett has written or directed over 20 films, many of which are studies of very complex and difficult lives. Two of his best-known movie screenplays in America are Prick Up Your Ears, about the life and murder of the promiscuous, highly acclaimed gay playwright Joe Orton; and The Madness of King George, about mentally unstable King George III, who enjoyed the nickname "Farmer George" and loved pigs. The museum is showing these and 16 other Bennett-written or directed- films during the series, which starts tonight with a double feature of A Question of Attribution, a film about spying, forgery and the art world directed by John Schlesinger; and another Schlesinger film, An Englishman Abroad, the true story of British defector Guy Burgess and a Royal Shakespeare Company actress. 7:30 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet,, 639-7515. $6 for both films; $5, one film only; seniors, students and MFA members get a $1 discount.

Back To School Clothing Drive Though the dog days of summer are upon us and all kids are dreaming of is a cool blue splash into the nearest swimming pool, it won't be long till school starts up again. And anyone who's been to school knows that every new school year brings new school clothes -- or it should, anyway. Today is your chance to make going back to school better for underprivileged kids by donating new and "gently worn" clothing to the FOX 26 Back To School Clothing Drive. You even receive your own freebies: In the morning, donors receive free coffee and kolaches from Starbucks and the Kolache Factory, and in the hot afternoon, Coca-Cola and Haagen-Das will hand out sweet and cold samples. 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. FOX 26 Studio parking lot, 3935 Westheimer.

Ten by Ten Houston is home to both a thriving community of writers and a burgeoning, eclectic group of small theaters -- and what better combination could there be for original plays? Tonight see ten completely new ten-minute plays by ten fresh voices at Scriptwriters/Houston's seventh annual presentation. Wonderfully good? Amazingly bad? You'll be the first to know. 8 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for other times and dates.) Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Blvd., 707-5194. $10.

Upcoming Events

The Tempest The Houston Shakespeare Festival opens tonight with The Tempest, a romantic drama that many scholars believe was Shakespeare's last play written without a collaborator. After a shipwreck tosses the cast onto an uninhabited island, sorcery, love and longing abound. Meet Prospero, the mighty and magical duke of Milan; Caliban, a lonely, lovesick monster; and of course, the young lovers Ferdinand and Miranda, who endure many Shakespearean machinations before they find happiness. It's a romance, not a tragedy, so it won't break your heart -- that is, unless Caliban is your favorite. 8:30 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for other times and dates.) Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park, 520-3290. Free.

August 2
International Jazz Festival The Men's Wearhouse, of all places, sponsors this jazz festival, which runs all weekend long, all over the city (see Thrills, Music for other dates and places). Today the festival is cheap, outdoors and downtown, where all festivals should be. The weather will undoubtedly simmer and so should the music, provided by impressive players from all over the world. Today hear Jonathan Butler of South Africa; Henry Brun and the Latin Playrz; the Summer Jazz Workshop All-Stars with guest Alex Bugnon of Switzerland; and the Jazz Crusaders with Wayne Henderson and Wilton Felder. Food, beverages and tchotchke vendors will all be on hand. 4-11 p.m. Sam Houston Park, 1000 Bagby, 227-8706. $5 at Kroger; $6 at gate; children under 12, free.

Breastfeeding and the Working Mom Everyone knows that moms provide the best nutrition possible for infants. But most moms work, and what's a mom to do when she has to be on the job from 8 to 5 and baby needs feeding every two hours? Next week is World Breastfeeding Week, and Memorial Hospital is offering  

a seminar to help prepare those devoted mothers who bravely decide to breastfeed even after returning to work. Besides learning more about the nutritional value of breast milk, women will be able to examine all kinds of gizmos that are currently out there to help mamas express that milk and store all that plastic-baggied baby-manna. 10 a.m.-noon. Memorial Hospital Southwest, Alamo Room, 7600 Beechnut, 222-CARE (for reservations). Free.

Broadway Bound Miller Outdoor Theatre is a great venue for that decidedly American art of tap dancing. The theater is big and noisy, perfect for the clickety-clack of the Texas Tap Ensemble's happy feet. Throw in some big booming Broadway musical tunes such as "One" from A Chorus Line and "Steam Heat" from Pajama Game, and you've got a morning filled with corny good fun and happy kid grins. 11 a.m. Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park, 686-9184. Free.

The Comedy of Errors Shakespeare proves that an improbable tale of two sets of twins is more than fodder for sitcoms. Of course, the pair are separated at infancy. And eventually, after they are grown, one has to be mistaken for the other. Wives and faithfulness must be questioned, and a life weighs in the balance -- but rest assured, everything comes out fine in the end. 8:30 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for other times and dates.) Presented by the Houston Shakespeare Festival at Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park, 520-3290. Free.

All Sizes/Real People Don't you just hate looking in fashion magazines at all those impossibly thin women and the impossibly expensive clothes they wear? Those magazine images -- no more than tricks of light and tailors' pins -- have been wreaking havoc on American women's self-images for years. The acronymic BLAFTCO at MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts) has decided to respond to this crummy sociological phenomenon, and to argue against the idea that most American women are too fat or too poor to be beautiful. At DiverseWorks Artspace, see an experimental fashion show that is "geared to represent the various ethnicities, cultures and body sizes that are in our society and are not found in the fashion world." The multimedia presentation will showcase the fashions of featured designers as well as seventh- to ninth-grade fashion students at MECA. 7 p.m. (See Thrills, Art for other dates, times and venues.) DiverseWorks, 1117 E. Freeway, 223-8346. Free.

Charity Fishing Tournament Amateur anglers and fishing fanatics alike can compete for trophies today. And if you hate those slimy, scaly little swimmers, you don't even have to cast a line to win the trophy for "best hard luck story." The competition is open to people of all ages and will include fish caught anywhere in the Galveston Complex (that is, Trinity Bay, East Bay, West Bay and Galveston Bay). Proceeds benefit the Sunshine Kids organization, which provides activities and programs for children with cancer. The Eagle Point Fishing Camp in San Leon is official headquarters for the tournament. And everybody gets a gift and a barbecue dinner. 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; registration closes at 9 a.m. Eagle Point Fishing Camp in San Leon. For information, directions and entry form, call Jennifer Dennis at 475-5988 or John Zanek at 475-5882. $50, adults; $10, children.

August 3
Watercolor Wonder Family Day at the Museum of Fine Arts is not a day for kids to be dragged whining and screaming through austere rooms while being commanded, "Don't touch!" Nowadays the museum has gotten as interactive as the next place, and to prove it, during a "discovery tour" through the exhibition of Mark Catesby's Natural History of America, kids can create their very own art. Using leaves, twigs and other woodland stuff, they can make their own nature rubbing. And even better, they can paint their own watercolors in an artist-led workshop inspired by Catesby's work. 12:15-4 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. Family Day activities are free with regular museum admission: $3, adults; $1.50, kids, students, seniors.

August 4
Southwest High Tech Career Fair Let's say you're a high-tech whiz and you've got a crummy job and you've been thinking how badly you need to be finding a new job, but jeepers, that takes a lot of initiative -- getting together letters, making phone calls, haranguing friends and on and on. Sometimes you need a little nudge. The fates are offering you such a nudge today. Recruiters from more than 40 corporations and consulting firms, including Lockheed Martin, Pennzoil and Alliance Data Systems will be hanging out, looking for that perfect high-tech employee who very well could be you. And if you get there early enough -- 10:30 a.m. -- you can attend a free seminar on career trends and tips. 11:30 a.m-.2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. JW Marriott Hotel, 5150 Westheimer, (800) 593-0101, Free.  

August 5
Free Language Demonstration Class If you've always dreamed of leaning close to your sweetheart's ear and whispering love in the lyrical cadence of French, or the sweet trill of Spanish, or the round warmth of Italian, but haven't had the time or money to learn a darned language, the University of Houston might have the answer to your desires. They claim to be able to teach you to "speak a language in 96 hours (or less)." And what's more, they are so sure of themselves that they are offering a free demonstration of their instructional abilities. You get 10 percent off the first course registration price for attending the demo, so what do you have to lose? Go on, get fluent. 6:30-9 p.m. University of Houston, West Houston Institute at Cinco Ranch, 4242 S. Mason Road, Katy, 743-1060. Free.

August 6
Racism Summer Film Series The Center for the Healing of Racism offers movies and talk in a "responsible forum in which to hold conversations on race relations." After showing a film concerning some aspect of racism, the center's leaders mediate a discussion. Tonight's film, The Bluest Eyes, concerns a Kansas City experiment in which 40 Kansas City locals (black, Hispanic, white) received pseudo-scientific data about blue-eyed people. The film explores the effects of this data on the blue-eyed individuals' ability to maintain intellectual and emotional stability. The outcome of this experiment is both troubling and thought-provoking, and the discussion that will follow this film promises to be fascinating. 7:30 p.m. Westbury United Methodist Church, 5200 Willowbend, 520-8226. Free.

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